The planning committee has failed to meet the deadline set by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to review the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) and align it with the priorities of federal and provincial governments.
On June 10, while chairing a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC), Nawaz directed the Minister for Planning and Development Ashan Iqbal to review the Rs3 trillion development programme for the fiscal year 2013-14 and come up with recommendations by July 31. The committee for the review was headed by Iqbal and included the chief ministers of the four provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
The need for the review arose after the provincial governments noted that there were dozens of schemes in the programme added by the Planning Ministry that were not in line with their priorities. Another objection raised was the inclusion of the previous PPP government’s schemes in PSDP. The NEC also ordered the committee to streamline the process of release of funds to the provinces, as Sindh and Khyber-Pakthunkhwa (K-P) had complained to the NEC that they were not consulted before finalizing the new PSDP.
The committee was supposed to meet on July 29th to finalize the report. However, spokesperson for the Ministry of Planning and Development Asif Sheikh said that the meeting was postponed due to the non availability of K-P and Balochistan’s chief ministers. He said next tentative date for the committee meeting is August 15.
Not only did the meeting on July 29th fail to materialize but the subcommittee headed by Secretary of Planning Hasan Nawaz Tarar with provincial chief secretaries only started its work on July 15, a full month and 5 days after Nawaz Sharif’s directive.
According to previous statements, Sheikh claimed that the entire review could be completed within a week so there was no need to call meetings in June or early July.
Due to this postponement, work on development projects could be delayed as the planning committee will slow down the release of funds until the schemes in the PSDP are decided upon.
And even if the July 29 meeting had been held, Iqbal and the chief ministers would probably have required another meeting, as the subcommittee could not decide each province’s share of the PSDP budget. For the current fiscal year the NEC approved Rs540 billion development budget. The committee had to determine provincial priorities within the Rs540 billion. According to officials, each provincial secretary demanded that their share in the PSDP be increased. This issue was left for Iqbal and the chief ministers to decide.
Provincial secretaries also recommended losing dozens of projects from the PSDP and adding new ones. This issue was also left for the chief ministers to decide.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2013.
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